Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4:5-15
The Samaritan woman at the well can’t hide. She is out there, in the relentless brightness and heat of the midday sun, fetching water.
The woman can’t hide. It is lonely out at the well at the noon hour. The women and servants come in the early morning hours, when temperatures are still bearable, getting their water for the day, chatting, gossiping, sharing fellowship. Why is this woman out at the well at this hour? Maybe her vessel broke, and she needs to fetch more. Maybe she is out there alone because she is shunned by the rest of her community. With five ex husbands and living in an illegitimate relationship at the moment, she probably does not have the best reputation among her neighbors. Maybe she just wants to be alone. Maybe she needs to get away from an argument in her home. We don’t know. But being out there alone makes her vulnerable.
The woman can’t hide, as she approaches the well where Jesus is resting. She can’t hide in the brightness and heat of the midday sun. She probably doesn’t feel the need to hide. First of all, no reputable man would talk to a woman in public. Secondly, the man who is approaching is one of them – a Jew, one of those who think only they got the right relationship to God, one of those who feel superior because of their unblemished tradition. No reputable Jew would mingle with the likes of her, a Samaritan, a heretic, the descendant of a people which mixed too easily with various occupying powers over the centuries, regarded a bastard in a physical as well as a spiritual sense by the Jews. There is a clear separation between Jesus and the woman, a great gap. There is nothing to fear. The woman feels safe, even out in the brightness of the day.
But then the unspeakable, the unthinkable happens: Jesus starts a conversation. Give me a drink, he asks. A simple request, it seems – but Jesus is breaking all the rules and boundaries that have been crafted intricately over centuries, and then some. He talks to a woman. He invites a conversation between two people whose communities consider each other heretics. He is about to drink from a Samaritan vessel, which would make him ritually unclean. Imagine a Jewish man today approaching a Muslim woman somewhere in the Jerusalem and the West Bank, and you get the picture.
The Samaritan woman realizes that there is no safety with this stranger; she can’t even hide behind conventions or laws. Here she is, exposed. But she is also curious. There are so many questions she has. Some sound sarcastic – how come you want something to do with me? Give me that water of life you’re talking of, so that I don’t need to come here every day. But then there even is no hiding behind those questions. To Jesus, everything is out in the light. The woman’s past, the woman’s presence, her longing for answers, her secret and maybe even subconscious longing for the water that quenches her thirst for a truly fulfilled life.
The Samaritan woman is ready to receive this living water which changes her existence, her life. She doesn’t need much prodding or convincing. She doesn’t need much evangelizing. She’s ready. She’s ready for this changed life, this new life that overcomes old enmities, boundaries, and conventions. She’s ready for the living water that rains on and refreshes anyone it falls upon and isn’t reserved for some special elects of God.
And what about us today? I think we have to sides of the coin here: on the one hand, we are the ones receiving the living waters Jesus offers. It gushes from the moment of our baptism to eternal life. But then we are also the body of Christ in this particular point in time, in this particular setting – are we, like Christ willing to break all the rules, to change our habits, to bridge any gaps, for the sake of the gospel and the sharing of the gushing waters of life?
In all that, we can be confident, that Christ will continue to seek us out – to challenge us, to walk with us, to catch us when we fall, and to give us a new chance, over and over and over. Christ will be there to give us this water which gushes to eternal life.
Photo by Jared Erondu on unsplash.com
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